Behind Indian Global Power Aspiration

There is no doubt that India’s continuous rise to great and global power status is only aided by the United States (U.S.) to keep the global strategic balance in Washington’s favor. Since past decade, India has tried enough to join the ranks of the great global powers: the idea of a G2 with America is mooted, albeit prematurely. More recently, U.S. top intelligence chief said India perceives its strategic forces as necessary elements to achieve the goal of becoming a global power. Similar predictions came on January 5, 2018, where, a former Obama Administration diplomat said in a book released that more than any time over the past quarter-century, the country (India) is well on its way to global power.

What kind of power is India today? It is not a Great Power, despite having range of nuclear weapons and intermediate-range ballistic missiles. Since it lacks serious extra regional power projection capabilities, does not decisively dominate its own region, and is not a system shaping power in either economic or military balance terms. But it is dependent on the blessings of what U.S. has been given them to rise as a great power.

Until late 1990’s, the U.S. often ignored India.  Since then, there has been an increasing focus on India’s economic and military expansion, and its consequences for South Asia and the world. Particularly, it’s the U.S. pivot towards Asian region and the Russia’s new Cold War with the West that have recharged India’s prospects of achieving Great Power status.

There is too much historical baggage for U.S. to make India as a global power. The most obvious reason for the U.S. to see India as a global power is to embrace India as a partner in containing rising China. With this aim, U.S. offered Indians the most advanced and lethal American defence equipment; training their military personnel; intelligence cooperation; lauding India’s stance on ‘terrorism’; investing in India’s defence industries; nuclear reactor sales; support for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and most importantly giving India a prominent role in Afghanistan in accordance to the U.S. withdrawal strategy.

India’s aim of keeping the U.S. engaged in the affairs of South Asia/Indian Ocean region (IOR) is best exemplified by the U.S.-India bilateral logistics exchange memorandum agreement (LEMOA) signed in August 2016. The LEMOA gives the two countries reciprocal access to their respective military bases for logistics i.e. supplies and fuel.

The U.S. and India have conducted a number of bilateral military exercises with each other, more than with any other country starting from “Yudh Abyas” back in 2002.  It is only the U.S. that has openly declared its intention and support to make India rise as a major world power. Not only this, U.S. has also designated India as a “major defense partner” a category created specifically for India to expedite defense technology transfer. The Pentagon has also created “India Rapid Reaction Cell” streamline projects for co-development and co-production of hi-tech military equipment in India. India is the only country to have a specific cell of its kind inside the Pentagon. This all implicates that Washington is investing in a long-term strategic partnership with India to support its ability to serve as a regional economic anchor and provider of security in the Indian Ocean region.

Strategically, the world looks like a different place through the other end of the telescope. The proximate impediment to India’s quest for Great Power status remains Pakistan. It means that Indian diktat will face resistance to be a global power until and unless Pakistan does not accept India’s regional pre-eminence as, strategically, these two giants are interwoven. It will be a fool hardy for India to feel free to play a great global power role as long as it is strategically tied down in South Asia by Pakistan.

Thus, the only aim of the U.S. in assisting India is to keep her strategic advantage in the region by indirectly supporting India. Whereas, India is receiving tangible military and economic benefits from this relationship

Usman Ali Khan
Usman Ali Khan
Pursuing M.Phil degree at the Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad Freelance writer and blogger E-mail: Usmanalikhan6[at]